If you’re a small business that needs help with your paid media, there are many, many companies out there that are ready to help. Some are agencies, some are software providers, and others are bundled solutions that may address a wide range of your marketing/advertising needs.

In this sea of partners, there are a few questionable business practices that I want you to be on the look-out for. These business practices are intended to “lock you in” and to take a large share of your budget. You should avoid these types of partners at all cost. Consider this an exposé of some of these practices!

Some firms employ one of these tactics, and sadly, there are firms that employ all of them. I’m going to take the high road and not pick on any particular company, so for the purposes of this blog post, we’ll use a fictitious company name. Let’s call this hypothetical partner “LeadMachine.” Sound too good to be true? It is! LeadMachine makes big promises. Promises they can’t keep.

lead machine

It makes me mad to see companies taking advantage of small businesses. These PPC solutions aren’t solutions. They’re the problem!

Don’t be taken by a great sales pitch! Use this information to protect your company and save thousands of dollars and hours of mental anguish. Be sure you have the right answers to these three key questions before signing on with a partner for your paid ads.

Who Owns Your Account?

ppc agency pricing models

One of the crazy ways LeadMachine tries to keep you is by owning your account.

Essentially, your account is Liam Neeson’s ridiculously unfortunate daughter in the Taken movies. Except you don’t have the very particular set of skills that will be needed to save her. The bad guys win.

When you cancel your contract with these companies, you will have nothing left. Signing up with them is essentially paying for the gasoline and a lighter that a professional arsonist will use to burn your PPC to the ground when you cancel.

This type of business model is awesome for the PPC provider, sure. But it’s beyond terrible for you, the business.

There is a much better way.

You should look for partners that let you own your own account – instead of kidnapping your account and holding it hostage for ransom money. You own your accounts and your campaigns. Not us.

Ask yourself this: Can you log into AdWords, Bing, or Facebook directly and see your account? If not, this is trouble!

Note: Beware of partners that say “you can always take your account with you” and really mean they will give you an Excel dump. This is not helpful! If you leave, you should be able to take your REAL account with you. Not just a dump of data. If you end your relationship, you shouldn’t have to start your PPC advertising from scratch.

Your AdWords and Facebook accounts are part of your business, just like your website, blog, and analytics. Nobody should ever use your accounts to keep you as a customer. It’s just wrong!

Is Your Provider Marking Up the Cost of Ads?

LeadMachine has some fancy names for their ads. That’s so they can mark up the prices to put more of your money into their bank account.

Let me be as clear as I can. There are:

  • Google AdWords ads
  • Google Display Network ads
  • Facebook Ads
  • Bing Ads

There is no such thing as LeadMachine Ads or LeadMachine Search, LeadMachine Social, or LeadMachine Display ads.

These companies are just paying for ads on those four ad networks from Google, Facebook, and Bing.

We believe there’s a better model.

How about this: you pay whatever you want to spend in advertising costs directly to Google, Facebook, or Bing. No markup.

At WordStream, we think that’s fair.

What Are You REALLY Paying For?

LeadMachine doesn’t have very clear pricing. (You have to call LeadMachine to get a quote? Seriously? What year is this?)

LeadMachine creates a “bundle.” Pay us $2,000 a month, and in your industry, we can delivery approximately X clicks or leads. But how much are you paying for their services and software versus your media spend? You know, for all those clicks they promise they’ll send to your website?

If you believe the reviews and stories of ex-customers, these companies are taking upwards of 60 percent of the money SMBs pay them each month for their services. That leaves 40 percent for actual ads. Consider this example:

ppc software pricing models

If you’re paying these companies $2,000 per month, then maybe $800 or $1,000 of that is being spent on paid media.

How is this at all fair to SMBs?

The worst part is that many SMBs who are probably happy with their services don’t realize they could be bringing in 2x as many customers if they weren’t wasting so much of their budget on an invisible markup!

Don’t Get Taken!

If you thought you were paying just for PPC with these companies, well, you’re paying for something else.

These companies blend together the cost of media, management fees, software licensing fees, and other “services” in packages so you never know where one starts and the other ends.

We think that’s crazy.

Use this checklist to figure out whether you are in trouble:

  • Can you visit your provider’s website and see fully transparent and easy-to-understand pricing information? No? RUN!!!!
  • Are you the owner of your own accounts on each ad platform? Can you log directly into your own AdWords, Bing, or Facebook account at any time? No? RUN!!!!
  • If you decide to part ways with your provider, can you take your account with you? Do all of the campaigns and improvements you have paid for over the years come with you? Excel dumps don’t cut it. Ask! No? RUN!!!!
  • Are you paying for things in a bundled fashion? Service, media, and who knows what else all in “one easy price”? RUN!!!

There is a better way. Demand transparency!